Traveling to Disney World with little ones can be the most magical (and exhausting) trip you will ever take! The first time we took our little princess, she was 2.5. At that point, I had only traveled to Disney as a child and as an adult with no children, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into! After asking friends and scouring the internet, I found lots of good tips and tricks. We have now taken Princess L to Disney at 2.5, 3.5, and just two weeks ago for her 5th birthday. Every trip has been different because of her age and interests, but I have used a lot of the same tricks to keep myself sane throughout our trips! So here are my top tricks and tips for traveling with little ones to Walt Disney World!
- Schedule around your child’s “magic” time. This is the time of day your child is most agreeable/best behaved. When Princess L was 2.5, her “magic time” was morning. Anywhere between 7am-Noonish, she was almost always in a great mood and the most cooperative. As soon as lunch time would hit, she would turn into a hangry beast and NOTHING was going to happen until she ate something and took a nap! With that in mind, I scheduled the majority of our character meet & greets and fast passes during those hours and planned to head back to our resort at lunch time to get her fed and down for a nap. Once she was well rested, we would take her back to the park and figured anything we got done between then and bedtime was a bonus! It worked out great and we had very minimal meltdowns. We still do this, but our resort time is getting shorter and shorter. She hasn’t taken a regular nap in a couple years, but Disney tired is a special kind of tired! Also, going back to the resort for a break gives your kids a break from all the excitement, which can get overwhelming and lead to more meltdowns!
- Ziploc bags & Take n toss sippy cups are your friend! Seriously! We used Ziploc bags for everything like leftover food because Princess L is a grazer (and takes forever to eat), dirty clothes, snacks, etc. We took a gallon Ziploc bag to the park every day with a full change of clothes (shirt, shorts, underwear, socks) just in case. You never know when spills or accidents will happen and this will keep you from having to spend Disney prices on a new outfit! Bonus, the mess can be contained in the Ziploc until you get back to your resort. In 3 trips, we have had to use our change of clothes twice. Once for a potty accident and once because of a spill! Plus it’s easy to just grab the bag and toss under the stroller. We also bring a few take n toss sippy cups. My kid loves chocolate milk, but they are always in a bottle that she can’t really drink out of. Animal Kingdom does not have lids and only paper straws because of the animals, so a sippy cup comes in handy there! They are great on the plane as well. If you don’t want to wash them out, you can throw them out when you’re done. They’re fairly cheap and come in all sorts of Disney prints!
- I guarantee you will LOVE and HATE your stroller at Disney! Having a good stroller is key! A cheap umbrella stroller is okay, but you will appreciate something that rolls a lot nicer (and has storage) when you’re pushing around a child (and their gear) all day. We have a City Mini stroller, which we love. If you don’t have a nice stroller, there is really no need to go out and buy one just for vacation. There are several companies that rent strollers out in the Orlando area and they will deliver to your resort. The majority of rented strollers are Baby Jogger City Mini or City Mini doubles. You will see them all over the parks and for good reason! They push easily, fold one-handed, and have a decent storage. There are other options for rented strollers as well, but the Baby Jogger brand in particular is my fave. Bonus, they’re fairly easy to fit on a crowded bus, because they fold almost totally flat.
- Yes, there are TONS of things to do at Disney, but I’m talking about waiting in line and waiting for food. Those are the times Princess L struggles with. Not only at Disney, but in our regular life I always have a play pack in my purse. You can find them at Dollar Tree, Target, Walmart, etc. They’re a little Ziploc pack that includes a small coloring book, crayons, and stickers and they’re usually around $1. There are loads of Disney ones as well! I also keep a couple games on my phone that I know she likes but that I don’t let her play often. When the coloring book isn’t going to work and she’s burnt out looking for hidden Mickeys, I whip out my phone with her fave app open. I also bring a few power banks to charge my phone. (There are also fuel rod kiosks at the parks!) Between taking a million pics, looking up fast passes, and letting the kiddo play with my phone, my battery doesn’t last long!
- Expect nothing, appreciate everything! Taking a little one to Disney can feel (at times) like walking around with a ticking time bomb! Toddlers can be so unpredictable and you never know what they will like/dislike! Don’t be afraid to switch up plans because your kid just isn’t having it! Maybe s/he is afraid of characters. Don’t force it because that isn’t fun for anyone! There are photopass photographers everywhere, with and without characters. We have our share of pics where Princess L did not cooperate (see the Animal Kingdom picture!) It’s ok! Maybe they just want to ride Carousel of Progress six times in a row. (L’s was Haunted Mansion over and over again!) Maybe they want to watch the ducks swim around the ponds at Epcot for 30 minutes. Flexibility is key and sometimes you just have to roll with it! If you don’t force a hectic schedule, it will make for a happier trip for everyone. And no, you won’t get to see and do everything, but that is ok! I guarantee that your kid won’t remember that they hated Elsa or didn’t get to ride a certain ride. They will remember the little moments like riding on the “Mickey Bus”, eating a dole whip for breakfast, and Mickey waving to them from the parade float!
Not all these tips will work for every family, but hopefully one of two will help your family have a more magical vacation!